Monday, July 31, 2006

a handful of wheel

Ah, August.

This, I have to say, is more like it. Now that the Earth's enormous thermostat located somewhere south of Nova Scotia has been readjusted, temperatures in my homecity hovered somewhere around the mid to upper 70s today, and this can only mean two things. One, that I needed to miss it all by sitting at my computer with some much overdue business and, two, it's time to leave town.

Yep, I'll be a puff of memory 'round these parts for the rest of this week. Mind the store for me, would you? The destination? The mountains, another state away, where the ground is red, the air is thin and so clear that it seems like the entire countryside is being viewed through a polarized filter. There will be hiking, nature, and burning, grateful lungs. This, I think, is reason enough for a song cue.

'Sandusky,' by Uncle Tupelo

I've been to Sandusky, Ohio. It sounds nothing like this.

That aside, these next three minutes and forty-three seconds are about as beautiful and perfectly arranged as you're ever likely to find. It's another one of those songs that make you want to look around, take in every detail of what's around you and maybe take a second to dream about playing guitar.

An all-acoustic instrumental, there's no sign of the holy war between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar that divided the alt.yippidoodle camps, no hyphenated genres, no sign of anything at all except the open road in front of you. The sun's out, your windows are rolled down and there's no wind, no traffic, no exhaust. The sun's not even getting in your eyes as you drive and as the light shines through the trees cradling the side of the road and pours past you, leaving everything is golden, warm and bright, smelling of hardwood and honeysuckle.

Two guitars are riding shotgun, getting all tangled up with eachother because they're sitting too close, getting friendly. And the three of you sound so nice together you don't mind that they keep picking up hitchhikers. Mandolin, banjo, maybe another guitar, hey maybe even dry, soft-shouldered set of drums. Why not? There's room enough for everyone, it's a beautiful day and we're all friends here. Nevermind all that. We've only got a little less than four minutes, let's make the most of all we see.

Buy Uncle Tupelo's "March 16-20, 1992" for more

Friday, July 28, 2006

oh grow up already

Opted to 'air myself out' the other night, as my mom used to say. A Promising Local Band was playing at the Silverlake Lounge, and since the last time I saw live music was the Calexico show way back in June I was, by any measure, overdue.

The Silverlake Lounge is a pit, but a curiously charming pit. The barstools have been beaten down under the rumps of so many patrons that the seats have only a paper-thin suggestion of padding. A wooden bench runs along the right hand wall, and if you lean too far back your head rests against a mind-bogglingly filthy acoustic foam. Minor quibbles especially when you consider that rock bars are for rock, which means standing. If you want to sit, go up the block to the soju bar.

With the exception of the usual domestic suspects, most of the beers are Mexican favorites like Tecate and Negra Modelo, reflecting SLL's usual identity as a Latino (latina?) drag bar. Everything is black and coated in an appropriate layer of sweat, grease and man mung, but any negative qualities are forgiven with the sight of the huge electric 'SALVATION' sign glowing over the stage like some musician's ham-fisted dream sequence. I can only assume it stays illuminated on the drag nights as well.

Given the slowly dissipating heat wave, Silverlake Lounge was extra stuffy that night, but in a tragic bit of relief it was so deserted that a small breeze would occasionally stumble through the club's open door.

Wednesday, it seems, is not a good night for the Silverlake Lounge. Those who came out that night to see either Tom Brosseau and his alien pipes or Marjorie Faire and their sleepy Coldplay-lite emptied their drinks and moved on before any band they might not have come to see could take the stage. Welcome to Los Angeles. People have shit to do.

'Crooked Mile,' by Weed Patch
'Ray Charles,' by Weed Patch

They missed out. To be fair, Weed Patch is not 22. They do not feature an accordian or any sort of eastern European accents. They are not particularly waifish and do not hail from Brooklyn, Canada, or any other P-fork endorsed zipcode. They are not at the forefront of any trend, unless you count the 'eclectic americana-based rock and pop noise' trend that's been going on for a decade and a half. The lead singer's voice is not--unless you really, really hate Michael Stipe or Bob Mould--an acquired taste. His lyrics are not tormented. They are not, at least in the indie-cum-blogosphere sense, cool. Which is a shame because what they are, instead, is a Damn Good Band if I do say so my damn self.

They have a couple of different sides at work. "Crooked Mile" is representative of their new CD "Some Kind of Happy" , a blend of "Summerteeth" squeals and sunlit sounds mixed by Centro-Matic's Matt Pence. Straightahead, windows-rolled-down guitar rock with a chorus covered in those things that get stuck on your pantlegs when you go hiking. Sticky stuff, is what I'm saying.

"Ray Charles," on the other hand, while still firmly rooted in the electric alt.whatever guitar pop world, is a little more hazy, a little less linear. Given the title, the song has an appropriately reverent feel, almost like someone's testimony before ascending to a cacophanous three-minute outro hinting at the joyful chaos lurking around the band's fringes, particularly live. Guitar squalls, effects pedals, washes of racket, sweat and electricity. Even a trumpet shoves its way toward the microphone. Bands, like people, only benefit from airing themselves out.

Buy "Some Kind of Happy" from Miles of Music

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

that what is not

This post is perfect.

I have made a series of thumbnail sketches. I have gone for long walks were I ponder these sketches and their validity. I haev written seventeen drafts and thoughout them all I have made vicious cuts, eloquent additions, and granted clemency to those segments that pleased me. No words were spared my gimlet editorial eye.

Paragraphs were studied and sentences pondered. Individual words were compared with similar meaning but different sounding choices and judged on pitch, timbre and meter. In the end the entire piece was pasted to my wall for 36 hours to be studied once more, ensuring that I would read it at times when I 'was not ready,' to ensure that my editorial judgement was not clouded by bias or exhaustion. Every passage was judged and then judged anew.

Then I started over. New avenues were explored. Towering arguments supporting my claims were erected and then swiftly leveled, only to be built once more on a more powerful foundation. Rhetorical angles were stretched and tested for elasticity and bouyance. Adverbs pondered, adjectives viewed warily, prepositions vetted. Nothing has been left to chance.

What you read here today is, in the end, without flaw, without fault, without a single poor decision that could result in anything less than an experience that will, yes, enriched your life and, as a result, enrich mine. It is all things to all people.

'Electric Mainline (Live)' by Spiritualized

I'd like to send 'a shout out' as the kids say to Jason Pierce of Spiritualized, a fellow perfectionist and by many accounts a right bastard to have around. Okay, he's probably a very nice, very tormented fellow, but he did after all unceremoniously sack his whole band (except the horn player) in the wake of their finest hour (1997's "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" and the incredible live document this recording is taken from "Live from Royal Albert Hall."). Why did he do that? Because he essentially trusted himself and himself alone to create the sounds that were in his head for the next two releases, "Let It Come Down" and "Amazing Grace."

Was he right? Debate is open. In some folks' eyes Pierce hasn't made a wrong move since he left Spacemen 3 and when you're a genius well, who else are you going to ask write your songs? But with a little collaboration, a little bit of strength in letting go of that control that can lurk inside your head to make this perfect little piece you can sometimes create something that, well, isn't perfect. But it's better.

This song is a collaborative effort, and although it was probably charted meticulously before they stretched this thing out to nearly seven minutes, it has touches that sound as if they happened by chance, organically. There's just no other way it could've happened.

The song starts in one place and slowly evolves through its players and its own will to someplace Other. Keyboard drones rise and fall and guitars tangle around eachother into a more and more intricate lattice work, followed by drums and even saxophone. Layer upon layer of sound piles upon itself until it can walk around the room, growing, expanding, running, breathing. Faster and faster. Transcendant, cathartic stuff, and even though I'm trying to learn the concept doesn't exist it's all somehow absolutely perfect.

Monday, July 24, 2006

the heat death of the universe

Maybe it's the heat--no, definitely it's the heat--but a certain lethargy has set in over and around my steaming home in the foothills. What with all the trees and greenery surrounding it you'd think some milder temperatures would be in the offing, but, sadly, we've been toward the front of the field in Southern California. The air hangs over the whole city like a wet cableknit sweater, thick and sticky , while the sun flexes its favorite muscle groups and dares you to go outside. Your only comfort, only solace is, if you're lucky, whatever room in your home you've designated a 'safe zone' with, in our case, an air conditioner in the window.

The mayor wants us to lay off with blackouts on the way and my gentle, environmentally conscious ways should comply. I'd love nothing more than to not sit in my living room and watch the equivalent of ten and twenty dollar bills fly out my window...nothing more, that is, except feeling cooler. Now I understand why people live on the beach, why people swallow an extra $500 per month in rent to this. For another month.

The news is calling it a heatwave, but I'm pretty sure it's just called 'July' at this point.

'Amber Canyon Magik,' by Brightblack Morning Light

This song sounds like my weekend felt. Slow and hazy. Relaxed, but enrobed in something cool and anesthesizing.

First off I want to thank Rajeev at One Louder for posting "Everybody Daylight" from Brightblack Morning Light a month or so ago. That coupled with KCRW's Jason Bentley latching onto the song pretty much sealed my trip to Amoeba last week, and the whole CD is just as rewarding. I can see some folks (like our helpful Amazon reviewer) getting overcome by the post-hippie, somnabulent vibe soaking every note of the album, but let go of all that, especially you fear of 'Magic' spelled with a 'K.' Silly sure, but sometimes it's okay to get swept away by your music to someplace slower, a little calmer, and maybe a lot weirder.

I'm not sure what the lyrics are saying here, but it doesn't matter very much. Suffice to say there's a lot of sighing and a watery guitar line surrounded by some gentle hand percussion that will either make you nod your head or nod out. Fair and fine. If you're not moving you're not sweating, and given the days ahead we might need a lot more of that than we'd think.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

dog days

Mmm, boy. I love me some marketing.

When I walk down the street and I see something I like the first thing that pops into my head is how can I, me, and my big brain, find a way to make that irreplaceable to someone. How can I make someone need that, fall 'in love' with that and, most crucially, pay me $__ for it? Let's monetize. How can we make it a 'Furby,' net net? Let's drill down into some numbers and grow our business.

I have to not do that before noon. It thickens the blood.

Sure, it's a straw man that I'm blowing up here. I don't know anyone who likes marketing or advertising or the fact every living inch of what we see, wear, and consume seems for sale. Perhaps it's in my generation's makeup considering we've had several pop culture icons decry marketing's evils and influence (ie, Bill Hicks, 'Adbusters', Lloyd Dobler etc), but that may be simplifying things. I mean, we're all in our 30s now so, theoretically, the people making and processing said ads and marketing dollars are, well, us. Reality really does bite, Mr Hawke.

So then, is it just me--or rather--just us? Are we just skipping the groove here from the majority of the country? Many folks in their twenties (and younger!) readily share information marketeers would sell their soul (again) for on MySpace and see no harm. Most people, it seems, would rather have a NikePumaCrombieGap logo across their chest than not. We all remember when that woman sold her face to the highest bidder, but now pregnant bellies are subject to corporate brandalism as well because, really where's the harm? It's the system. Newspapers, television, movies, trees, people, they're all magnificent advertisement delivery systems.

On the other hand, maybe the tide's turning...American Apparel has built a hipster empire on brand-free clothing (unless you count softcore photographs of lithe young girls as a brand, and I think we can). TiVo has an almost evangelical devotion among my friends because it's Life Without Ads (for now).

So, to be generous, let's say 42% would rather not live with ads. I'd rather not, yet I just had a conversation with some marketing people about what content would be best to promote in our newsletter--a newsletter which of course contains ads and is in and of itself an ad itself. Most of us out in the working world, more than 42%, are probably involved with some form of selling and marketing right now, I'd bet. It's the most pervasive industry in this country. After this country goes foom all there's going to be are cockroaches and marketing executives spraying Dodge logos across their backs.

'Swastika Eyes,' by Primal Scream

I promised dance music this week (I think), but I've found it difficult to hold to that. Dance music, it seems, doesn't come naturally to me. I've got other songs I'd like to talk about or that I'd like to have provide a score to these little stories and screeds I drop off in this space, and by in large they're not easy to dance to. This song, despite its frightening title, very much is.

I've never been to a rave. Even going to college in the '90s and really starting to nurture an overwhelming music habit at the time didn't inspire me to follow the fliers and go dance for a few hours into the wee hours (see above). But this song lets me imagine the most insane, brutal rave that ever walked through Fatboy Slim's decadent id.

Multi-colored strobe lights are flashing, people are moving their bodies furiously between fire-dancers and those freaks who put glow-sticks on the ends of ropes and swing them around into surreal air-paintings. The best part? Primal Fleeping Scream is in the middle of the room, making this incredible dance-happy racket on traditional rock 'n roll instruments, drowning out all other sound. There's lost genius Kevin Shields, cradling his guitar like he's afraid of it. There's the Stone Roses' Mani pounding out a bass line against a tribal live-drum beat, and there's keyboard wizard Martin Duffy making all the bloops and bleeps that trick you into thinking this is 'electronica.' And right in the middle is Bobby Gillespe, frozen solid against the microphone stand singing some nonsense about swastika eyes as lights swirl around him. Is he angry? Is he catatonic? Is he too stoned to move? Maybe all three.

How the hell did they get here? Disregard all that faux-Stones rubbish and check XTRMNTR out. Angry dance music for angry times, and that was six years ago. Think of what they should be doing now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

welcome to world war four

Almost killed a guy on the way home tonight.

It wasn't on purpose, of course. I don't travel the streets of Los Angeles waving a handgun out the window and yelling at traffic to just "gimme a reason" or anything like that. (Though I'm pretty sure there are stretches of California commute-crete that feature just that from time to time.)

I was just driving, only a few hours ago. I had just left the Happiest Place on Earth (also known as Amoeba) and was making my way out of Hollywood. My head was full of the eight--count 'em! Eight!--CDs I had just acquired and, I was tired. I was preoccupied by the $90-odd dollars I just dropped and if I spent it well and on top of that, I was a little unlucky. Or lucky, depending on how you look at it.

I was looking for the 101 freeway heading north, and for those of you who haven't spent time in this part of the country, I'll explain. Though LA is mythologized as the birthplace of freeway, we have not perfected them as a means of transportation. I mean, that's obvious, look at our traffic. But on top of that, sometimes it feels as if we're busy hiding the freeway from the average driver, perhaps out of pity. "Yes, that's the 170 right over your head, but really, are you sure you want to get on that thing? Think about it, you'll have time. We're only going to drop an onramp on maybe every fifth or seventh major intersection." There are areas where you can look up the freeway's skirt for miles and feel like you'll never actually get on the damnable thing. It's not the freeway that is LA's signature totem; it's the velvet rope.

ANYWAY, there are several ways onto the 101 in Hollywood, and my favorite is just off Argyle and Franklin. Unfortunately, in my sensory-overloaded state I thought it was Franklin and Vine, which is where I made my left turn and found a pair of pedestrians.

One was in the middle of the crosswalk, so I waited for him to pass and then began my turn, only to fail to noticed someone ELSE who had just started his trip across Vine. It was dark and that corner isn't very well lit. Now, it wasn't a close call, really, no squealing of tires, no evasive actions. I eventually saw him and slowly angled the Nissan to a stop just to curbside. He, on the other hand, had seen me for some time.

He was in a white shirt and royal blue shorts, and looked like a slightly more squat (and slightly more furious) version of Clipper point guard Sam Cassell. In fact, maybe it was Sam I Am, who can be sure? In any case, there I sat, my car accidentally 'parked' at a 45-degree angle into the top of the crosswalk, and Sam is very upset, and understandably so. He's fleshy and pink, I'm big and metal. We're not made for each other. He's stomping his feet and yelling something, and his eyes are wide and white. It's somewhat unfortunate that my windows are rolled up and I can't hear his opinion of me and my mistake.

I'm repentant. I'm apologizing and gesturing for him to please, go about your evening and proceed to your destination. Or words to that effect. I'm in the wrong here, so if there was a way to mime that I was at fault and felt terrible, I was doing it.

But Sam is very upset. He stays just steps from my fender in the crosswalk and puts his hands on his hips, looking down at the pavement and taking a deep breath, apparently wondering what, just what was going to happen next in his day and, indeed would he have to kill someone just to set the whole thing right?

Suddenly I'm getting upset.

I've apologized, I've most definitely not hit the guy and what else can I do? Before I know it anger has begat anger and I'm yelling--insisting!--through my window, "I'M SORRY," and shrugging exaggeratedly, hoping we can just go about our lives. Finally, he raises his hands and forgives me, nodding and saying something to me that looks like, "Okay, it was an accident and your display of guilt appears genuine. I will allow you proceed this time." He continues to the other side of Vine and I continue toward Franklin its terribly inconvenient onramp, which of course wasn't on Vine at all. It was located a U-Turn away on Franklin and Argyle.

And I'm angry, and puzzled as to how it happened. I completely failed the test. Being at fault here I was supposed to just let the other guy be angry and be friendly and understanding and soon after dispute is diffused. But...he got angry, i got angry with this crazy mix of embarrassment and frustration and it didn't have to be that way. I got caught up in the moment, which I guess is how it happens.

Hopefully next time it'll go better. I'll hit the small black button that rolls my window down and speak softly and calmly. Anger will go one direction, get lost and look around and wonder what it's doing in that neighborhood. I can dream, can't I?

'Let the Music Take Your Mind,' by Grant Green

Tough choice on what to post in the wake of all that, but I like to think this slice of jazz funk (what became 'acid jazz') from Grant Green's fantastic live album "Alive" (which you really aughta own--you'll recognize bits of it were used by Us3 and Tribe Called Quest, to name a few.) This massive song's a Kool & the Gang cover that wipes away any bad mood or vibration, and it's not just Green's fluid guitar that does it, it's drummer Idris Mohommad's relentless groove bouncing all over that snare. I'm pretty sure if this were playing in my car during the above exchange things would've gone much, much better.

an evening of dance music

I've been chewing on the notion that I've never had a 'theme' here at this establishment, my little olde shoppe of words and ideas.

I got the notion this saturday night when we decided to take in the (free) Diavolo Dance Theatre performance at the comparitively scenic California Plaza downtown. I say comparitively scenic because, as someone who works downtown, most things in and around the center of our fair city are, in fact, unpleasant. Sure, there's some nice loft spaces where people are fortressed inside, but a few blocks away from a hip yet struggling restaurant/boutique/bar under a half million-dollar loft apartment is a Blade Runner-esque carnival of misery, addiction and homelessness. So, taken by that measure, a fountain-dappled concrete space between Deloitte & Touche skyscrapers and corporate coffee stops looks pretty good.

I digress. ANYWAY, check that picture of Diavolo out--Looks pretty crazy, right? Big wooden boat-ish structure, bodies soaring to and fro, and, yes, modern dance being peformed by gymnasts! Actors! And (presumably) dancers! I'm not someone who generally seeks out modern dance performances, but seeing words like 'surrealist' and 'absurdist' next to just about anything piques my interest. And it was better than roasting inside of a poorly insulated house during our Summer of the Inconvenient Truth.

SO, off we went and I have to say, the show wasn't terribly impressive. Sculpted men and women propping themselves up in various yoga poses, slip-sliding up and down the pictured rollicking boat thing. Every so often one would fling themselves off the boat and into the waiting arms of his/her fellow dancers, resulting an excited 'wooo!' from the crowd.

Sure, it's impressive, and risky, but surrealistic? I mean, I don't know how to fling myself off a rocking wood structure but essentially what you were seeing in the leaps were only a bit removed from the feats of skill found at the average Pac-10 cheerleading challenge. And the dance? Again, I'm not an authority, but it really just looked like an olympic floor exercise taking place on a moving surface. Skillful, sure, but not very moving.

Then of course there's the biggest culprit: the music. A series of dramatic string swells and non-verbal operatic trills from unseen voices. It may have been reaching for those fantastic "Great Gig in the Sky" dramatic wails but what it found instead? The pretention-skewering dance numbers from "The Big Lebowski." Come on, remember, the Dude's landlord greets him at his doorstep in wee Grapevine shorts and invites him to check out his "Cycles"? That's what the California Plaza sounded like. All it needed was some MagLight lighting and a chubby guy in laurels.

And people ate it up. I read that the guy behind the company has just been commissioned to choreograph a cirque du soliel show in Vegas, which makes complete sense. There was a very Vegas touch to the evening, from the retirees clustered around the fountain to the melodramatic feats of strength on stage. All that was missing was a magician to dance around a spinning, sword-skewered casket.

So, why are we here now? It made me think of dance music, and its many forms. I'm not what one would call a fan of 'dance music." (See my earlier post about my 'roughage' listening habits, but there are songs that make me want to move my feet, shake my hips and generally wave my hands in the air and wave them like I have no regard for the consequences.

'What the World Is Waiting For,' by the Stone Roses

And, I promise, one or two of these will have even been created less than 15 years ago (and the less we discuss of this song's birthday the happier we'll all be, agreed? Agreed.)

I never got to see the Stone Roses live. I came close--I lazily approached a ticketmaster in San Jose the next day after their Fillmore show was announced. Sold out, of course, which sort of surprised me given the tepid response to "Second Coming."

I even trolled around the venue the night of the show in an attempt to catch a scalper's ticket--something I'd never done before or since--and failed there as well. What I believe I missed was the band without Reni, their original drummer, who had bailed out sometime before and, possibly, a hobbled John Squire who busted his collarbone cycling around Mt. Tamalpais that week. I could be misremembering some of the whos and whats there (please advise if so), but suffice to say I MISSED THEM. One of my favorite bands of all time, and like most people I never saw them live. Instead I've got two records, one collection of b-sides (where this song comes from, in all its baggy, starry-eyed glory), and a lot of unfulfilled potential (on their part, not mine. I did all I could, dammit).

But regardless, enjoy this jangly slice of Manchester. I'd like to promise more to come tomorrow along the same lines, but who knows if the 'theme' will take hold. I might jump off the rocking little boat in my own right. Stop the world, I'm getting off.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

evil don't look like anything

It's almost startling how little happens to you when you don't leave the house much.

There's no denying it. The home-to-work-to-home pinwheel will keep you squared away with the internal sleep-bank and surely reduce other complications that could come up from people 'out there,' but, for the most part, a lot of things are being missed.

This is just the schedule and the fading illness talking. The ship will get righted soon enough, but lately I've been rolling home from work at about 8 p.m., which is just enough time to have a very hastily planned and vegetable-deficient dinner, relax, read a bit and unfortunately crash out. However, I have been afforded the opportunity to catch up on my "Arrested Development" DVDs, which is fairly delicious treat I can't believe I didn't start sooner.

Anyway. The following song is apropos of nothing, it just makes me happy.

"Okkervil River Song," by Okkervil River

It takes a special kind of band to willfully rock the song that's of the same name as its own. The only other one I can think of right now is "Talk Talk" by Talk Talk (who also pulled off the rare branding trifecta by releasing the song an album of the same name). Who else has done it? Would it have seemed okay if Led Zeppelin started singing about a metallic dirigible? What if the Rolling Stones covered "Like a Rolling Stone" in concert? You'd pretty much have to throw things at them, right?

And doesn't feel like grandstanding here. Maybe it's because this came from Okkervil's "first" record "Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See," which is just filled with so much wide-eyed enthusiasm, joy and ambition it's tough to begrudge the young band a thing.

This is probably my favorite album by these Austinites, and I think the biggest factor is the instrumentation. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere in my late 20s I drifted from my usual catharsis-rock and became utterly enamored with rootsy, acoustic 'Americana,' I think it's been least offensively called. (This has also been referred to in more vicious circles as a varietal of 'dad rock,' which, c'mon, just isn't nice.) Whatever your thoughts about acoustic music, one of the most beautiful aspects of it is there's no half-stepping. If you know what you're doing, you immediately sound that way. I've shared my love for effects pedals--partly because they can make even me sound like a guitar hero--but with a banjo or big hollow-bodied box there's nothing to hide behind. You hit the notes or you don't.

Whatever my love for that album or, particularly, this song, may say, it's tough to miss its charm. A bouncy riverboat zydeco kind of rhythm comes in at about the one minute mark, led by that most unsung of acoustic instruments, the mandolin, followed, shockingly, by a chugging accordian. Stay with me now. Pretend you never saw a bumpersticker that read "Play an accordian, go to jail."

Still here? Good. But it's not just the toe-tapping that makes you glad you stuck around. There's such longing in the lyrics, this dog-eared short story with a melancholy sense of lost love that culminates in the shouted "I searched and stared but only the river stared back." Then there's a moment of silence, birds chirping, the river (presumably) running.

What else could they name the song? This is what Okkervil River sounds like.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

beefeater stares

Well. That explains that.

That whole bit below, the one where I was wondering what was up with how sluggish I was feeling? Well it wasn't the Mondays, it was my body reacting accordingly to having some sort of viral throat cold thing strapped to its back. Balls. I fought something like this off a few weeks ago when I saw my soon-to-be-four-year-old neice, a little germ factory if there ever was one (no, I kid. She's fantastic. Don't believe me? Look at this.)

ANYway, her inarguable cuteness aside, she had a certain laryngitusian strep throat THING lingering in her, and I almost caught it (my sister-in-law did, and as such was incapacitated for a week), and then I saw said sister-in-law (and child) Saturday night and what happened? Inbetween the booze that is? That's right, the kissing and the hugging, so here I am.

Actually it's not that bad. I ratcheted up the irritation with it because, well, I could get sick, but I'm not, not yet at least. Not that this stopped me from calling into work in the name of not getting sick. I had a nice little prickly pear of a thing crawl into my throat as soon as I stepped out of the office last night, and there it sits even now. Strangest sore throat I've encountered in awhile, not just because it's painful, but because it's not ALWAYS painful. Just when I swallow, or yawn, or inhale wrong. It could turn into something, but hasn't yet.

It also hasn't gone away, despite the fact I stayed at home and in my pajamas until 4 p.m., probably because I was still working on my laptop thanks to several software programs I can't explain. I have to say, telecommuting? A nice deal. Work is better when you don't have to actually go anywhere for it.

So I spent today trying to drink liquids, do more work than I aught've and watch dvds of "The West Wing." Another nice thing about being sick is you can pretty much take in whatever form of entertainment you wish and not be concerned about "being productive." This is something I seem to have a problem with.

'Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby," by Islands

Most of the music I listen to is what you might call 'roughage,' that is, things that take a little bit of work to enjoy. That's not he right way to put it--I don't have to work at all, really. Most of what I listen to isn't simple, bright, shiny, sunny or poppy. Very little of it--apart from the earlier described fondness for heavy metal and the Ramones--is stupid.

This song, by the impossibly indie-pedigreed Islands, is very stupid.

Sure, there's something clever in the title up there, and yeah, this isn't Justin Timberlake or Xristina dumb, but it is a very bright, very happy, and very very harmless little pop song. About as difficult to enjoy as a lollipop. And I hate those.

I don't know why that isn't something I go for more often, or, more germaine to the topic, why I do go for this song. The chorus burrows into you head faster than a Butterfinger commercial, and twice as nonsensical. "Bones, bones, brittle little bones?" What the &%$@! is that? And then you're going to follow that with a bunch of lazy little 'doot-doots'? What's the matter with you?

Islands are Canadian. I think that's relevant, somehow.

Anyway, the song's willfully quirky, weird, joyful and not just a little bit cute. You can imagine little animated creatures singing it in a forest as a crying little baby deer complains about its sprained ankle. "What can you do, little deer? You're imperfect, and you'll get better. Doot-doot!" And the little caramel-colored deer with its Hershey-kissed spots across its back wipes away its tears and sings right along because it's sunny, and there's a chipmonk with a fife dancing alongside a goose in a kilt. How bad can it be, really?


Monday, July 10, 2006

i believe i'll dust my broom

Is it possible to be hungover without actually being hungover?

My weekend has me exploring such an idea. Had a busy couple of days highlighted by a friend's barbecue last night and my aunt and uncle's anniversary party saturday, and naturally today I'm feeling like I drank a six pack and a half and washed it down with a pound of Sominex. Not a good feeling, particularly when faced with the beginning of the workweek.

I don't want to have that quote from "Office Space," running through my head, I really don't, but there it is: "Someone has a case of the Mondays." Whenever someone asks how I'm doing at work I can never just disregard the question like I should, I can never take it for the conversational happytalk that it is.

"Great!" I'm supposed to reply, or "Pretty good, how are you?"

Inevitably, and unfortunately, I answer honestly.

"Gnng," I'll say with a half smile, or maybe I'll roll my eyes and shrug. What I don't say is what I should probably get more credit for. "I'm here, aren't I? How the hell are you?"

Someone has a case of the Mondays. But it's more than that, right? Is my body just that ill-accustomed to having to be somewhere that morning? I woke up at around the same time all weekend, my lethargy doesn't make much sense.

But, on the bright side, it was a good weekend. Wine, champagne, and our family celebratory beverage Sambuca was flowing at my uncle's house, which inevitably led to a talk outside between my brother and father and myself. One of those family bonding type times that given all of our ages somehow turns, well, a little morbid you can say but unfortunately realistic.

"We're Just Temporary, Ma'am," by White Whale

I don't generally post *new* music here, figuring that's better left to those bloggers with connections and time that exceed my own, but this song has stuck with me since yesterday afternoon when I gave it a test spin on the way to our barbecue. I can't say I'm terribly crazy about the album, despite the many bands namechecked in a rather icky manner in their press release ("Okkervil River cannot contain the enormity of the White Whale!"). In fact the whole album comes across as a more practiced and glossy version of their aforementioned influences. "You want Decemberistian literary content? Check! You want Arcade Flaming singalong choruses? You bet!"

However, this song comes up with something more anthemic, somehow more arena-ready than the above, and not in a revolting Journey kind of way (not that Journey's completely revolting--more on that another time). Jangly guitars glisten soar as the narrator comforts someone (a lover? A stranger in a supermarket?) by asking--no, demanding--to be held by his love before his time is through. His voice carries that sort of trumpet-blaring assuredness that only narrators of war hymns, sea shanties and, well, this song can pull off. It's manipulative, sure, but also as difficult to wash out of your head as roofing tar. We should all be as brave as our songs.

Friday, July 07, 2006

i ain't no adobe hut

Got to see a special side of the city yesterday. Through no fault of my own, I found myself awake and on the road at a little after 5 a.m. For me, at least, the only acceptable reason to be up and about at that hour is if you have a plane to catch, if you're driving to a ski resort or if you accidentally haven't even bothered to go to bed yet.

Yet there I was, on the way to work and watching the sun first curl its way back around the earth for another vacation in the land that is its own--Sunny Southern California. At that hour all of downtown resembles a restaurant just as its about to open. The last scraps of the night are slowly surrendering to a royal blue dawn, and there's no smog, no heat, nothing that even resembles that many ugly stereotypes of my home city.

It's not all pennywhistles and moonpies. Seeing the various beds the homeless population are forced to make downtown (in doorways, under overpasses, inside the carcinogenic blast furnace of the camera-ready Second Street Tunnel) and seeing them either fighting for the last fitful few minutes of nighttime sleep or already rolling up their posessions makes one a little less able to bitch about rolling into an air conditioned office.

So I won't. Work was work, and when I finished 11 hours later I was so tired my head was heavy and bloated. Stoned. I came home and all I wanted to do was look at nothing, read nothing, take in no further information and just shut it all down.

"Hyas and Stenorhynchus," Yo La Tengo

Taken from their "Sounds of the Sounds of Science" album, I'm not even sure if you can properly call this a 'song,' at least in the ol' verse-chorus-verse sense. This was part of Yo La Tengo's lovely score to an undersea documentary whose name escapes me, and though I haven't seen it (or them, I shamefully admit), it sounds like how being underwater feels. The bass, guitar and drums are all very weightless, most of the time barely tethered to eachother as gentle and curious sounds float in front of you. I'm not sure what Hyas or the other vowel-challenged creature listed in the song title look like, but I can imagine they're peaceful, beautiful and patient; and when they dream it sounds just like this.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

satan's tilt-a-whirl

Greeting and a happy post-Independence Day to you all.

Woke up this morning with a song in my head. Kind of strange when that happens, isn't it? I hadn't heard said song in, oh, maybe more than a year (maybe more than five years actually) and yet, there it was, dumped out of some dusty file cabinet in my brain and into consciousness just as I was waking up. I had to share.

"Disappointed" by Public Image Ltd.

Oh Johnny.

I think this song was my first exposure to Mr. Lydon back in 1989 during some episode of 120 Minutes (!), and I have to say, it was not a performance that befit a so-called punk rock icon. Oh sure, it's a great song built on giddily decade-appropriate synths, and Lydon's voice is in strong with talk of being "a really sad person." The good ol' Sex Pistol menace wasn't quite present, replaced with a car salesman goofiness, which went nicely with some good ol' Sex Pistol mugging for the camera, a camera which had the thankless job of absorbing every inch of Johnny's oversized Seussian green suit and polka dot tie. It didn't matter, I rushed out and bought the disappointing in its own right "9" from my local Wherehouse (packaged in the decadent paper longbox, thank you very much). I'd further explore PiL and the Sex Pistols later.

Anyway, I can't be entirely sure where this song came from this morning, but I did have the pleasure of my iPod spitting out the far superior "Rise" yesterday, which I'll also share later. There the punk-to-postpunk lineage seems much more obvious. Still a catchy song with it's Irish blessing chorus, but then there's that manic chant of "Anger is an energy!", a chant that finally rubs Johnny's throat raw as the song fades out. Take that with having watched this corpse-fellating documentary on the New York and London punk scenes, featuring copious shots of a sneering Johnny Rotten and an indifferent Joey Ramone and presto!--"Disappointed," somehow.

The movie certainly inspired the song in my head. There was Jim Jarmusch like a spectacular silverback rooster, giving his grainy two cents. So was a pasty and bloated Siouxie Sioux, reclined in a chair still in black S&M mesh. And then there was a wierdly Hawaiian shirt-clad Captain Sensible from the Damned, all uniformly agreeing what a special time it was, indeed, and how lucky they were to be there and to tell us poor buggers born too late how wonderful it was and will never be again.

It was fascinating, sure, but they sounded for all the world just like the Bob Dylan radio documentary I'd heard earlier that day saying the same basic thing of the '60s. You know, that self-important decade the poorly named 'punks' sought to destroy. In at least the 30 minutes I gave this IFC program (whose name in its own right is kind of gross) all but a few sounded just as nostalgic as the sad ol' hippie boomers before them.

Maybe we're all strapped that ride. Every generation had it better and was so much more interesting than the one following (wait until the sequel Punk: The Flannel Years or Punk: The Coachella Years). I hope not. Anger is an energy.

"Rise," by Public Image Ltd.